How To Write an Abstract For a Scientific Paper

Some authors publish papers the abstracts of which contain a lengthy background section. There are some situations, perhaps, where this may be justified. In most cases, however, a longer background section means that less space remains for the presentation of the results. This is unfortunate because the reader is interested in the paper because of its findings, and not because of writing scientific abstract its background. Although some journals still publish abstracts that are written as free-flowing paragraphs, most journals require abstracts to conform to a formal structure within a word count of, usually, 200–250 words. The usual sections defined in a structured abstract are the Background, Methods, Results, and Conclusions; other headings with similar meanings may be used .

To create a first draft of an abstract of your own work, you can read through the entire paper and cut and paste sentences that capture key passages. This technique is useful for social science research with findings that cannot be encapsulated by neat numbers or concrete results. A well-written humanities draft will have a clear and direct thesis statement and informative topic sentences for paragraphs or sections. Isolate these sentences in a separate document and work on revising them into a unified paragraph. Due to lack of training in scientific writing and sometimes unethical practices, abstracts are often poorly written, lack critical information, and sometimes contain spin. An effective abstract provides brief but adequate information on the purpose, procedure, results and implications of a study. A descriptive abstract indicates the type of information found in the work.

Informational Abstracts

Table 3 lists important questions to which the methods section should provide brief answers. Note that, in the interest of brevity, unnecessary content is avoided.

How do you avoid mistakes in abstract writing?

To avoid mistakes, be sure to adhere to the exact word count and formatting structure. 2. Forgetting to include important background details that describe the unresolved problem that you will investigate and describe in the abstract.

Although it is the first section of your paper, the abstract should be written last since it will summarize the contents of your entire paper. A good strategy to begin composing your abstract is to take whole sentences or key phrases from each section of the paper and put them in a sequence that summarizes the contents. Then revise or add connecting phrases or words to make the narrative flow clearly and smoothly. Note that statistical findings should be reported parenthetically [i.e., written in parentheses]. There are as many kinds as abstracts as there are types of research papers. The classic abstract is usually a “Informative” abstract.

All abstracts include:

For a scientific paper, you may have sections titled Purpose, Methods, Results, and Discussion. Each one of these sections will be longer than one paragraph, but each is grouped around a central idea. Use reverse outlining to discover the central idea in each section and then distill these ideas into one statement. Hannah has 15 years’ experience in the STM publishing industry working directly with researchers, journal editors, reviewers writing scientific abstract and academic societies. As Senior Product Manager for the Journal Finder, Hannah is responsible for ensuring researchers can easily and quickly find the right home for their research first time around. Students first read and annotated the sample abstract individually and then worked in small groups to discuss ideas. A student group facilitator called on peers to share their “clunks” , questions, and the different parts of the abstract.

  • The abstract allows you to elaborate upon each major aspect of the paper and helps readers decide whether they want to read the rest of the paper.
  • In this section of your manuscript, you will summarize your work and capture the reader’s attention in a story that tells why you did the work, how you did it, what you found, and what it means.
  • Other researchers will value knowing your research question.
  • By examining this historically important case, I clarify the process by which movements transform social structures and the constraints movements face when they try to do so.
  • The purpose of a scientific abstract is to summarize the contents of a scientific paper.

The Mississippi movement attempted to forge independent structures for sustaining challenges to local inequities and injustices. By propelling change in an array of local institutions, movement infrastructures had an enduring legacy in Mississippi. When abstracting your own work, it may be difficult to condense a piece of writing that you have agonized over for weeks into a 250-word statement. There are some tricks that you could use to make it easier, however.

How to Write an Abstract

The characteristic formulation of GR is implemented to obtain an algorithm capable of evolving black holes in 3D asymptotically flat spacetimes. Using compactification techniques, future null infinity is included in the evolved region, which enables the unambiguous calculation of the radiation produced by some compact source.

This information helps the researcher determine how successful or unsuccessful the experiment or study was. In most cases, the background can be framed in just 2–3 sentences, with each sentence describing a different aspect of the information referred to above; sometimes, even a single sentence may suffice. The purpose of the background, as the word itself indicates, is to provide the reader with a background to the study, and hence to smoothly lead into a description of the methods employed in the investigation. Writing an abstract for a scientific conference is different from writing an abstract for a manuscript or review article. Most often, the author of the entire work writes the abstract. However, there are professional abstracting services that hire writers to draft abstracts of other people’s work. In a work with multiple authors, the first author usually writes the abstract.


Do you find the abstract has the right information to help you decide whether to read it? Conclude with the main point and impact of your research. In 1-2 sentences, iterate your overall summary of the project and its theoretical and/or practical impact on the pertinent field of study. State whether your research has filled a knowledge gap.

  • Other examples of unnecessary content in an abstract are listed in Table 8.
  • Some conferences will allow minor last-minute updates to your abstract prior to the conference, providing an opportunity for you to update your results and conclusions, if necessary.
  • Abstracts are used in scientific journals and research databases to make pertinent information more accessible to researchers and scientists.
  • You should include the results that reflect the most important parts of your findings.

Here’s a look at what an abstract is and how to write one. Eliminate unnecessary content and add any missing important pieces of information. Your results section is the most important part of your abstract because it explains what you discovered and the relevance of your work to other people’s research. The first sentence should be interesting, eye-catching, and draw the reader into your piece. As a member, you’ll also get unlimited access to over 84,000 lessons in math, English, science, history, and more.

Descriptive abstracts

Carelessly written methods sections lack information about important issues such as sample size, numbers of patients in different groups, doses of medications, and duration of the study. Readers have only to flip through the pages of a randomly selected journal to realize how common such carelessness is. When writing your abstract, keep in mind that this will typically be the only information that conference attendees have about your research. This can be difficult when trying to work within a small word limit, so focus on the most important results and conclusions that you are trying to convey. Your abstract should conclude with a conclusion and/or discussion that describes how your results fit within the general research topic you described in the background/introduction. Keep your conference audience in mind when writing the discussion. After reading the entire work, put it aside and write a paragraph about the work without referring to it.